The Word Made Fresh
1As he was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind since birth. 2The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned to cause this man to be born blind – him or his parents?”
3“Neither,” Jesus replied. “He was born blind so that God’s power can be shown in him. 4We have to do the work of the One who sent us while there is still daylight. No one can work when nighttime comes. 5But I am the light of the world as long as I am here.”
6Having said that he spat on the ground and made some mud with the spit, then smeared the man’s eyes with it. 7He said, “Go now and wash in the pool of Siloam.” Siloam means sent. 8He went and washed as Jesus said, and when he came back he was able to see.
9The neighbors and others who had seen him when he was a beggar began to wonder, “Isn’t this the blind man who used to sit and beg?” 9Some thought he was, but others said, “No; but he does look a lot like him.”
The once blind man kept saying, “I’m the man!”
10They kept questioning him. “How were your eyes healed?” they asked.
11He told them, “The man Jesus made some mud and spread it on my eyes and told me to go bathe in Siloam. I went and bathed, and my sight returned!”
12“Where is he?” they asked.
“I have no idea,” he answered.
13They took him to the Pharisees. 14This happened on a Sabbath, by the way. 15The Pharisees questioned him about his eyesight and he told them, “He put mud on my eyes, and when I washed it off I could see.”
16Some of them grumbled, “This man isn’t from God – he doesn’t observe the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinner perform such miracles?” and they were divided. 17So they asked the blind man again, “If he’s the one that opened your eyes; what do you have to say about him?”
“He is a prophet,” the blind man replied.
18The Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had been given his sight. They summoned his parents. 19“Is this your son?” they asked. “You say he was born blind, so how is it that he can now see?”
20His parents answered, “Yes, he’s our son, and he was indeed born blind. 21But we have no idea how he can now see. We don’t know who did this for him. He’s a grown man; ask him. He can speak for himself.” 22They said this because they were afraid of the Jews, who had agreed that anyone who claimed that Jesus was the Messiah would be ejected from the synagogue. 23So, they said, “He’s a grown man; he can speak for himself.”
24They summoned the man who had been blind from birth and told him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”
25He replied, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I was blind, and now I can see.
26They said, “What did he do? How did he restore your sight?”
27“I told you,” he said, “but you wouldn’t listen. Why do you need to hear it again? Do you want to become his followers?”
28Then they insulted him. They said, “You might be his follower, but we are disciples of Moses. 29We know that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this fellow comes from.”
30He said, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he comes from, and yet he restored my sight! 31We know God doesn’t listen to sinners, but does listen to anyone who is obedient and worships. 32Since the world began it has never happened before that anyone opened the eyes of a blind man. 33If this man weren’t from God, he couldn’t have done anything for me.”
34They growled, “You were born in sin, and here you are trying to teach us?” And they threw him out.
35Jesus heard that they had banished him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”
36“Who is he, Lord? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37Jesus said, “You have seen him– he’s the one speaking to you now.”
38He cried, “Lord, I believe!” and worshiped him.
39Jesus said, “I came into this world to judge, so that those who do not see may see, and those who see might become blind.”
40Some of the Pharisees nearby heard him say this, and asked him, “Certainly you’re not saying that we are blind, are you?”
Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would be sinless. But since you say, ‘We can see,’ your sin remains.”
1-12: The story of the healing of the blind man takes up the entire chapter. It is the longest and most involved and detailed healing story in any of the four gospels. As he walks in the city with his disciples he sees a man who has been blind all his life, although we are not told how Jesus comes by this information. The disciples take the tact of the Pharisees and look for someone to blame for the man’s blindness. Jesus says he is blind “so that God’s works might be revealed in him,” then heals the man with a mud poultice. It would be a better world if we could learn to see every human malady as an opportunity for God to be glorified. When the man goes to wash in the pool Jesus has moved on and is nowhere to be found.
13-17: Surprise! It’s a Sabbath day! The Pharisees can’t see past their rules and proclaim that Jesus cannot be from God because he broke the Sabbath laws, but their pronouncement does not get unanimous support. The formerly blind man has a high opinion of Jesus, as we might expect.
18-23: The investigation continues as “the Jews” summon the man’s parents, who will confirm only that they are indeed his parents, but offer no other corroboration for fear of being banned from the synagogue.
24-34: They interrogate the formerly blind man again, trying to intimidate him into denouncing Jesus as a sinner. It is clear that the spreading news of the man’s miraculous healing is throwing an obstacle in the path of their search for a way to discredit Jesus and eventually have him put to death.
35-41: Jesus finds the man and asks him if he believes in the “Son of God” (“Son of Man” in some manuscripts), the Messianic designation he uses most often in the gospels. The story ends with Jesus making a pronouncement about the “blindness” of the Pharisees for not acknowledging his being sent from God, in stark contrast to the man who was blind but now “sees” Jesus’ true identity.
When we serve the needs of others we open ourselves to criticism from those who think we’re just showing off, and think they know all the rules. Help others anyway!